Thanks to the ingenuity of many great coffee machine manufacturers, you can become your very own barista and make the perfect cup of real espresso in your own kitchen!
At A Glance: Our Top 5 Picks for Espresso Machines
If you often find yourself wanting to test out your brewing skill level, check out our list of the best espresso machines for your kitchen. We’re confident you’ll find one that’s right for you, and pretty soon, you’ll be making delicious coffee drinks of your own and saving yourself a few (or a few dozen) trips to the local specialty coffee shop.
Quick Summary: Best Espresso Machines
|DE’LONGHI EC||Check on Amazon →|
|GEVI 15 BAR ESPRESSO MACHINE||Check on Amazon →|
|MR. COFFEE CAFE BARISTA ESPRESSO MAKER||Check on Amazon →|
|CALPHALON TEMP IQ ESPRESSO MACHINE||Check on Amazon →|
|GAGGIA CLASSIC PRO||Check on Amazon →|
|NESPRESSO INISSIA||Check on Amazon →|
|BAMBINO PLUS||Check on Amazon →|
|BREVILLE BARISTA EXPRESS||Check on Amazon →|
|RANCILIO SILVIA ESPRESSO MACHINE||Check on Amazon →|
|BREVILLE BES880XL BARISTA TOUCH||Check on Amazon →|
Our Top Picks: Best Espresso Machines for Your Kitchen
What is the best affordable semi-automatic espresso machine, you ask? Meet the EC155 from De’Longhi! This espresso machine is not only affordable, but it’s also one of the more frequently recommended espresso machines for overall performance.
It features a stainless steel boiler durably wrapped in a stylish design that will make it the perfect addition to any kitchen. Thanks to a patented dual-function filter holder, you can brew with either coffee pods or ground brew. The machine is also equipped with separate thermostats that allow both water and steam pressure to be controlled for a great cup of true espresso every time.
Gevi 15 Bar Espresso Machine
Much like the De’Longhi machine above, this 15 bar offering from Gevi is a rather affordable machine and part of a price range that even the budding barista on a budget can swing. The semi-automatic machine is easy to operate with a clear display and clearly-labeled buttons — perfect for a beginner!
Fifteen bars of brew pressure extract a beautiful single shot topped with the ever-important layer of crema, and if you take the built-in frothing wand to a stainless steel frothing pitcher (sold separately) filled with milk, and you’ll be enjoying delicious espresso-based drinks like lattes, macchiatos, and cappuccinos from the comfort of your own home in no time.
Mr. Coffee Cafe Barista Espresso Maker
If you are looking for an easy way to pull shots of espresso, look no further than the Mr. Coffee Café Barista Espresso Maker. This machine effectively answers the question, “What is the best espresso machine for beginners?” and features a one-touch control panel that allows you to easily brew any drink you crave; it even includes an automatic milk frother that will help you create the creamiest cappuccinos and lattes right in your own kitchen.
Additionally, the drip tray is adjustable for various sized cups and mugs and cleanup is a breeze as virtually every reservoir is easy to remove and clean. If you are looking for simple, the Café Barista should definitely make it to your short list.
Calphalon Temp iQ Espresso Machine
If Calphalon isn’t on your radar yet, allow us to introduce you to the brand via the Temp iQ espresso maker. The cookware and kitchen appliance company’s machine boasts a sleek design that would mesh well with nearly any set-up and color scheme. It even includes a stainless steel milk pitcher, tamper, and cleaning pin — everything you need for brewing espresso shots at home!
The 58-millimeter portafilter is cafe-sized, holding more grounds than you’d expect, and ensures the near-boiling water is evenly dispersed, thus guaranteeing bold and robust flavors. Instead of pressing buttons, use the simple dial interface to select steam, hot water, and single or double shots. The cup warming tray gently prepares espresso cups to receive the coffee, and the thermoblock heating technology ensures every drop of the espresso will be hot as it flows into the warmed cup.
See how it compares to the Barista Express!
Gaggia Classic Pro
The Gaggia Classic Pro is the Classic machine’s stylish upgrade. The simple, user-friendly interface remains the same, but the improved steam wand allows you to produce velvety, frothy milk if you’re willing to practice honing your barista skills consistently.
The espresso shots themselves are as impressive as ever and speak to the original version, which was a fan-favorite for beginner baristas for over a decade. We have no doubt the pro will serve the coffee community just as well (and probably better).
Chances are, if you’re looking for prime convenience in the lower price bracket, you’re probably looking at pod machines. If you’ve poked around our website before, you know we aren’t the biggest pod espresso machine supporters, but we also know not everyone feels as strongly about the topic as we do. That’s why we’re recommending the Nespresso Inissia.
The machine can hold nine to 11 capsules, which happen to be very easy to load and eject (and bonus: they’re recyclable, too!). Obviously, the machine’s most noteworthy feature is its capsule brewing system, but just know that buying these machine means you’re committing to only use Nespresso’s espresso pods. That limitation, however, can be a plus for those who are craving simplicity.
The machine is energy efficient, fast, and brews a pretty good cup, but there’s no steam wand or built-in frother, so if you want to make specialty drinks, you’ll need to invest in a separate milk frother. And just know you’re not mitigating the “big boy espresso machine” learning curve much by starting with this machine.
The Bambino Plus by Breville
Breville’s Bambino takes up a really small amount of counter space, but produces coffee shop level results.
The digital temperature control and the pre-infusion process ensure that the flavors are extracted as they should be. The push of a button, automatic milk steaming wand makes what can be a tricky part of the process super simple. Besides the easy-to-use features and small footprint, the 3-second heat-up time is hard to beat.
Breville Barista Express
The Barista Express is another fan-favorite from the highly reputable Breville brand. In fact, this mid-range semi-automatic machine is one of our all-time favorite picks!
On the outside, you’ll find the sleek and distinct stainless-steel design of most Breville appliances (though you can also order it in black or red). On the inside is a 1600W thermocoil heating system and 15 bar pump and a stainless steel conical burr grinder. Factor in decent programmability, and you’ll see that the Barista Express is the perfect marriage of user-friendliness, flexibility, and convenience. You’ll get a great shot of espresso within two to four minutes — what could be better?
Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine
With its iron frame and stainless steel sides, this industrial-looking machine from Rancilio seems to recall coffee makers from days gone. But at the same time, it adds in many modern features, including an ergonomic portafilter handle and commercial grade group head for great heat stability and extraction quality.
And if you’re a coffee capsule connoisseur, you can purchase a pre-measured pod and capsule adaptor kit separately. All-in-all, the sleek machine and its built-in steaming wand make a perfect match for someone who’s willing to make a serious investment for the sake of improving his or her coffee brewing.
Breville BES880XL Barista Touch
While some love the hands-on approach semi-automatic machines offer, others aren’t too jazzed about the idea of using those types of espresso machines. So if you’ve got a larger budget and are looking to let the machine do all the work, opt for the Barista Touch.
The Barista Touch has a built-in burr grinder and customizable settings, including a LED touch screen on which you can personalize your grind size, brew, and milk to create a coffee drink that fits your strength, texture, and temperature preferences. You can save up to eight of your unique choice combinations, and it comes with five pre-programmed options for you to get started.
And what super-automatic machine is complete without a good steamer wand? The Barista Touch’s wand has options for adjusting the milk’s ideal temperature and texture until you get the ideal micro-foam baristas use for latte art.
De’Longhi Magnifica ESAM3300
“Magnifica” is right with this product offering from De’Longhi! This super-automatic machine has bean-to-cup capabilities thanks to an 8.8-ounce coffee bean hopper and built-in grinder. Use the 180-degree swiveling steam wand and patented frothing capability to create rich, creamy bubbles in a milk of your choice.
As far as programmability goes, the rotary and push-button control panel is easy to use and includes customizable menu settings. These specs give you almost as much flexibility as a semi-automatic espresso maker does.
Gaggia’s Brera competes on the market alongside Breville and De’Longhi’s mid-range models. While it’s not exactly a beginner’s machine, the learning curve isn’t too terrible to contend with. Use the espresso maker a couple of times, and you’ll have it all figured out.
This super-automatic machine has an LED screen and buttons for straightforward customizability, and the ceramic grinder and patented Adapting System work together to give you a great grind. The machine has a pannarello steam wand that’s perfect for creating rich, foamy goodness, but most importantly, it brews a great shot of espresso.
Flair Signature Espresso Maker
While semi- and super-automatic machines are perfect for many, some at-home baristas prefer using a manual machine. If you find yourself in that camp, or are looking for a way to brew cups of espresso while you’re on the go, the 100 percent human-powered Flair brewer could be just what you need.
Each of Flair’s manual espresso makers can brew between six and nine bars, and the pressure kit comes equipped with a stainless steel tamper and a bottomless portafilter. The brew head comes off for easy cleaning — just rinse it under cool water. Flair’s Signature manual espresso machines are made from cast aluminum and stainless steel, so you know it’s durable enough to last for years and can handle being tossed around in a suitcase as you carry it along with you on your travels.
Making the Machine: What makes an espresso machine good?
First of all, the build materials of lower-budget espresso machines are typically less durable. They are often made with more plastic components, rather than the metal ones used for the top of the line options. This means the lifespan of your machine will be considerably shorter, as these parts will deteriorate and break more quickly.
Pro Tip: Even if your machine is mostly plastic, make sure it has a stainless steel boiler. These machines will still be at an affordable price, but they are likely to last longer and brew better espresso.
Because the parts are less durable, a cheap espresso machine typically won’t get as hot or as highly-pressurized as their higher-priced competition. So, your espresso may be weaker and the flavors less distinct than you’d like. However, the strength should still be sufficient for most mixed beverages, even if it’s not the best to drink black.
Bells and Whistles
When selecting a machine, take note of the tools it’s equipped with. Does it have a built-in grinder? What about a steam wand?
Wands on low-end machines tend to be less ergonomic and more breakable. In fact, they might not even be included at all — you’re unlikely to find one with a whole lot of bells and whistles, which brings us to our next point.
Lower-end machines tend to be pretty bare bones when it comes to programmable or adjustable options. You may be able to adjust cup size or brew strength, but chances are, there won’t be much more than that. Pod machines, like those from Nespresso or Keurig, also fall into the “zero-to-no flexibility” category, as they seriously limit your options for the kind coffee you use.
While this is probably a relief for an amateur home-based barista, it may be frustrating as you gain more experience or if you already have a lot.
And Don’t Forget…
- Make the most out of your machine by buying fresh, whole beans and grinding them yourself rather than using pre-ground coffee. This can really make the difference between a great and mediocre cup of espresso.
- Take the time to read user manuals, even if your machine seems ultra simple. They can help you cut down on user errors to extend the life of your machine and improve the quality of your brew.
- Also, don’t discount a stovetop espresso maker or other alternative brewing methods. They may be better suited to your tastes and lifestyle than a traditional espresso machine.
Espresso Machine Care & Maintenance
If you want to continue enjoying perfect tasting coffee from your new machine, you can’t just speak nicely to it between brews. You’ll need to clean it regularly.
The essential oils that coffee beans contain provide flavor and create the rich, beautiful crema that tops your espresso. But oil residue gradually emulsifies, clinging to the water screen of your machine and on its brass surfaces. Oils also deposit a film on the portafilter and filter basket. Eventually, this film will block the filter holes in the basket and leave deposits on the portafilter spout.
Bottom line – residual oils will eventually leave an unpleasant, rancid flavor in your coffee. Keeping your machine squeaky clean will also extend its life.
What coffee beans should you use for the perfect espresso?
The first thing to note here is that espresso is not made from a specific variety of coffee bean. That’s an urban myth. Espresso can be made using pretty much any type of coffee bean.
Also, espresso is not a particular type of roast. More misconception … In fact, you can use beans that are labelled “Espresso Roast” to make percolator, French press, and drip coffee too.
The most common types of coffee bean that are used to make espresso are Arabica and Robusta . Of the two, Robusta has a stronger flavor and higher caffeine content. Arabica is typically pricier and has a milder, sweeter flavor with overtones of fruit and chocolate.
So, the type of coffee beans you use to create your espresso brew is purely a matter of personal taste.
All espresso machines are not made equal
All espresso machines have similar features and working out which are important to you can be a challenge for the home barista. Now, bearing in mind how much coffee gear can cost, it’s essential that you know what you’re buying.
As usual, we have your back. We’ve included a run-through in this guide of all the typical features you’ll find in a home espresso machine. Check out the following before you make your choice:
Pump-powered vs. steam-powered
Your first decision is whether to go for a steam-powered or pump-powered espresso machine.
Steam-powered machines are typically the more affordable option. However, you might want to know that the very first Italian espresso machines were steam-powered and the coffee they produced was not popular. It was only when espresso was made using pump-powered machines that the beverage took off around the world.
Unfortunately, many modern steam-powered espresso machines still have inconsistent pressure capabilities, which can result in substandard shots.
Pump-powered espresso machines are consistent in performance. They’re better at maintaining temperature stability, giving you far more control over your brew.
Control and shot pulling
The next thing to take under consideration when buying a home espresso machine is the kind of shot-pulling feature you want your machine to have. You’ve got a few options here:
With semi-automatic espresso machines, you stop and start the shot by pulling levers or pressing buttons. This gives you total control over the grind setting and how long you pull the shot.
Semi-automatic machines allow you to decide on the balance and taste of your shot, making them a popular choice among dedicated home baristas.
Automatic machines allow you to start the shot, but it’s the machine that decides to stop it after a certain period of time. Sometimes the shot brew time is adjustable; other times, it’s not. However, you still have control over the grind setting.
Super-automatic machines do everything for you; all you’ve got to do is press a button or two, and they grind coffee, steam milk, and pull the shot. The only decision you have to make it what kind of bean you use.
The pre-infusion feature allows you to push a small quantity of water into the coffee to kick-off the brewing process, allowing the espresso grounds to degas before full pressure is applied. This process gives you a more balanced brew and is something that we would prioritize.
Cheaper machines only have a temperature gauge. Although you can still produce great shots with a machine like this, a display that tells you how long the shot has been pulling for and gives you the internal pressure of the machine makes it much easier to produce excellent coffee.
For the sake of a few extra dollars, we’d recommend choosing a machine with an electronic display. After all, you can never have too much information, right?
Secondary water spout
Many pump machines have a secondary water spout, often called a “tea water dispenser.” Although this spout is intended for filling tea mugs, it’s also very handy for heating up your coffee mug before making a brew.
In a home-brewing setting, a tea water dispenser is a nice-to-have, rather than an essential.
Steam wands can be a dead giveaway when it comes to assessing the quality of an espresso machine. Poor quality steam wands often have a black plastic end and are marketed as “steam wands for beginners.” You want steamed milk that’s smooth, creamy, and the perfect temperature. Cheap wands give you over-bubbly, stupidly hot milk – avoid!
Look for a steam wand that can be controlled manually, contains two to four steam holes, and swivels around to provide the best angles for steaming.
Water reservoir or plumbing
If you have an area on your kitchen counter that allows you access to plumbing, you may want to choose an espresso machine that can be connected directly to the water line. With this set-up, you won’t ever need to worry about your machine running out of water, because the machine draws water directly from the line.
For those of you without the convenience of direct water line access, a machine with a water reservoir or water tank is your only other option. These machines are generally cheaper and are ultimately more portable espresso makers.
The specialty coffees served in coffee shops generally use a standard double espresso shot. A standard size double espresso shot takes 16 to 22 grams of coffee grounds to produce 30 to 40 grams of espresso. If you want this for your home brewing experience, you’ll need to make sure that the espresso machine you choose has a group head (or brewing head) that’s large enough to fit portafilters of that capacity.
Be aware that most low-end machines have much smaller portafilters. Bear in mind that a larger portafilter allows you to pull larger shots, giving you more caffeine content, more flavor, and allowing you to split shots between two drinks if you want to.
The features mentioned above are the main ones to look out for when you’re buying a home espresso machine. At the end of the day, an espresso machine is a valuable tool, but it’s the quality of the ground beans you use that will determine whether your final brew tastes excellent or not. Always buy freshly roasted, high-grade beans to be sure that your new machine gives you the results you’re looking for.
Single boiler or double boiler?
The best espresso is said to be made by forcing 195 degree fahrenheit water through fine grounds with around 10 bars of pressure.
Single boiler machines use just one boiler for heating both the water for the espresso shot and the steam wand. Although this means that they require more downtime between the two processes, they are much cheaper than their dual boiler relatives.
Best Espresso Machine Brands
A glance along the aisles of any major kitchen equipment store or a quick Google search will reveal dozens of different espresso machine brands. The choice is mind-blowing, not to mention confusing.
We’ve put together a list of some of the most trustworthy brands for you. All these manufacturers have solid reputations as makers of high-quality, value for money kitchenalia, including espresso machines and other coffee-making gear.
De’Longhi has been around since 1902. This family-owned business manufactures kitchen equipment and small electrical items, including an extensive range of high-quality coffee machines.
Nespresso is a very well-known maker of espresso machines. Most people have seen their TV ads, featuring George Clooney, suavely making himself the perfect espresso with one their machines.
Australian-born brand Breville has been around since 1957, when they began business as an importer of electrical household appliances. The company supplies everything from sandwich makers and irons to espresso machines. If you’re looking for an affordable, decent-quality home coffee maker that’s built to last, Breville is an excellent choice.
The UK-based company, Gaggia, specializes in making high-quality bean-to-cup coffee making machines, primarily for home use. Although you can expect to pay a healthy sum for one of their espresso machines, the investment will pay you back with a lifetime of top-quality brews, time after time.
Rancilio was founded in 1927 in Italy. Since then, they have been making commercial espresso machines, although they also offer a machine that’s aimed at the home barista. Rancilio’s experience shows in the superior design and performance of their high-end products.
Frequently Asked Questions
No complete guide would be complete without an FAQ section. Here we answer the questions every self-respecting home barista needs to know.
What is the best affordable espresso machine?
The De’Longhi EC155 is not only affordable, but it is also one of the more frequently recommended espresso machines for overall performance. It features a stylish stainless steel boiler that makes it durable and sharp looking in any kitchen
What is the best espresso machine for beginners?
The Mr. Coffee Café Barista Espresso Maker is an excellent entry-level espresso machine. It has an easy to use, one touch control panel and an automatic frother that helps you avoid screwing up your favorite espresso drinks.
Can you make espresso without a machine?
Don’t fret, financially challenged coffee lover. Yes, you can indeed make espresso without the aid of a machine (though a manual espresso machine is pretty affordable). Just get yourself a French press, a Moka pot, or an Aeropress and follow the instructions in this article.
Why are espresso machines so expensive?
The simple answer to this question is, “You get what you pay for.” Decent-quality espresso machines and coffee grinders are precision-crafted, industrial-grade pieces of high-tech kit. Espresso machines are designed and built to perform close-tolerance operations, using highly pressurized hot water/steam, and finely milled, precision-ground coffee beans.
What espresso machine does Starbucks use?
The majority of Starbucks stores currently use the Mastrena High-Performance Espresso Machine, an automatic bean-to-cup espresso maker. Bean-to-cup machines remove the requirement for a separate coffee grinder as the process is integral to the machine. The Mastrena only grinds sufficient beans for each cup of coffee, ensuring that the freshness of the beans and their flavor is preserved. With this kind of machine, you also get to enjoy the sound of the grinder working, which you don’t get with machines that use pre-packed, ready-ground coffee.
What does tamping espresso mean?
Once you’ve loaded coffee into the portafilter handle, you’ll need to tamp it down. Tamping means compacting the coffee grounds evenly. Tamp too hard, and the flow of water through the grounds is restricted, resulting in coffee that tastes bitter. Not enough pressure and the water runs through the grounds, leaving the flavor behind. Finding the ideal pressure takes practice, but it also depends on your personal taste.
So what do you think of our list?
We believe one of these espresso makers will be just the trick if you are ready to get something more out of your coffee drinking that you have not experienced before, at least at home.
Why head to a coffee shop every time you want something other than basic coffee? With one of these handy machines, you can bring the coffee shop right into your kitchen. If you do, we guarantee you will never look back.